Doncaster youngster Charlie is set for life in the fast lane as a racing car driver

Charlie Ryde, aged 8, of Doncaster, with his mum Debbie Ryde and dad Neil Walmsley. Charlie has autism and is learning to be a racing car driver.
Charlie Ryde, aged 8, of Doncaster, with his mum Debbie Ryde and dad Neil Walmsley. Charlie has autism and is learning to be a racing car driver.
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An autistic boy who has a life-long passion for Formula One racing has been given an award for his own driving skills.

Charlie Ryde, now aged eight, developed his obsession with the sport when he was still learning to walk.

At the age of four, the youngster, from Armthorpe, was diagnosed with autism following nine months of what mum Debbie Ryde described as ‘gruelling’ hospital visits and tests.

But, she said his love of fast cars never faulted through this difficult time.

She said: “ His passion for this sport has not diminished. He can tell you every race driver, every team they drive for and every winner of each race and where they qualified.”

Proud mum Debbie, along with dad Neil Walmsley, decided to take Charlie indoor karting to let him experience being on the race track for himself to see if he liked it. They found that not only did he love it, but he also had quite a talent for fast driving - despite not being able to learn to drive for at least another nine years.

Debbie added: “He was not only fast, he was picked up straight away by the owner of Raceway Karting in Pontefract, who pulled his dad to one side and asked if it was his first time on the track as he was incredible.

“Charlie now attends this race track regularly for practice and will soon start to train with one of the owner’s sons which will help him to develop even further.”

With Charlie’s love becoming a hobby, his parents decided to enter him in to his first competition earlier this year, taking part in a Junior Race School in Manchester with the aim of qualifying for the Daytona Inkart Championships 2017.

Charlie, a pupil at Southfield Primary School, was one of the youngest of sixteen drivers in his class at the contest, which took place in February,

Only those who impressed enough to qualify for the advanced drivers category were able to go on to race in the championships.

Charlie had to demonstrate to instructors that he could drive at the highest level,  that he was capable of performing under pressure in race conditions, and that he understood track safety and a Formula One style flagging system.

He successfully completing over 100 kilometres on the track and also took part in attend several lessons and answered two theory exams during the nine hour day.

At the end of the day, the youngster was awarded with advanced driver status.

The Inkart Championship is made up of eight races which take place from March to November. Each race uses a qualifying and race format similar to Formula One. Charlie’s first race was on Sunday March 19 at Pontefract.

Debbie said: “Charlie will be up against some drivers that are older and more experienced than him, but nevertheless has set himself the goal to finish in the top four drivers by the end of his first season.

“His story shows what great things that can be achieved if you put your mind to it, no matter what disability in life.

“Charlie is a quirky little boy who has his heart set on being a great racing driver and he is not letting his autism get in the way of that. We wish him all the luck in the world.”

Charlie and his family have also been making money for the National Autistic Society to say thank you for the awareness the charity has raised of the condition over the years.

Debbie took on the Three Peaks challenge in the Yorkshire Dales along with her colleagues in 2015, raising £964. Her partner Mike Williams also ran the London Marathon last year as part of a team who raised over £300,000 collectively.